Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Guitar Weekends

My officemate Gavin recently went to one of the weekend clinics run by Guitar Weekends, held in a lovely country hotel in England's Lake District. He came back with a lot of great things to say about the weekend and everything he'd learned and done.

I thought it might interest some of you as well.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rodrigo Sanchez v the U.S. State Department

I really hate to hear that Rodrigo Sanchez -- of the Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela -- has been denied entry into the U.S. because of what appears to a mistaken identity situation. John sent me the link to this BBC News article this morning.

What a shame for them...and for so many of their American fans who will now miss out seeing them in concert.

Their self-titled CD is really special. I especially love their version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". If you are a fan of innovative acoustic guitar music, you should definitely give this CD a listen.


Monday, March 19, 2007

The Trews

Thanks (again!) to Bob Harris, I have discovered The Trews. He's played the track "Yearning" from their "Den of Thieves" CD several times. I finally broke down and ordered the CD from Amazon. It arrived last week, but today was the first day I've given it a listen...in the car, during today's commute to/from Oxford.

Hearing the first track, at first I thought it was going to be another "GGN" band. (GGN means Gratuitous Guitar Noise -- my own label, I hasten to add, for the sound of those bands who think that making a lot of mediocre noise with their guitars, for no reason other than to create more background behind the singer/singers, makes them sound really cool. I don't agree.) Then I realized that the raucous hard-rock sound was actually very good.

I also initially wished that Chris Daughtry was doing the vocals. I love Chris' voice, and I thought it would be so compatible with The Trews' sound. But after a few more tracks, I completely changed my mind. The Trews' vocals are great. Some interesting harmony. Well-constructed songs. Really good sound. Not a bad cut on the CD, as I realized I'd heard all 15 tracks.

Somehow I thought this was a British band. But I see from the article about them on Wikipedia that the band members are originally from Nova Scotia and are currently based in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

(Here's a reminder to myself to write an article here -- one of these days -- about all of the Canadian artists I've discovered since moving to the UK.)

This is really good stuff! I'm going to take it with me to work and have my officemate Gavin give it a listen, too. Oh, and of course I'll also see what John thinks as well!

And I'm taking it in my car again tomorrow, too. That's a very good indication of how strongly I would recommend "Den of Thieves".


Monday, March 12, 2007

More on "The Calling" -- plus Mostly Autumn

A follow-up to last week's posting about Mary Chapin Carpenter's "The Calling": I've now had time to give the CD a good listen or two, and I like it very much. John agrees and will be putting it into iTunes ASAP (if he hasn't already). For John, that's a serious endorsement to add a CD to his iPod so quickly!

But those of you who are died-in-the-wool American Republicans and/or fans of "W" would be better off avoid it, however. You'll run the risk of being offended if you don't.

Meanwhile, I've discovered another English band. They aren't new...just new to me.

The name of the band is Mostly Autumn. Once again, thank you Bob Harris! Bob played their song "Fading Colours", from their CD "Heart Full of Sky", on his Saturday night show weekend before last. I had digitally recorded the program and was then listening to it on my Nano as I commuted to/from Oxford last week. The song was so intriguing that I played it about 4 times in a row. I ordered the CD from Mostly Autumn's own website last week, and it arrived at home Saturday.

What a great find! How would I describe their sound? Orchestral rock...at least lots of strings and synthesizers. Dramatic sound. Lovely vocals and harmonies. A touch folky sometimes. Nice Celtic-sounding wind instruments sometimes, too. The primary female singer has a voice which reminds me a little of Karen Matheson of Capercaillie; she's one of my favorite female British singers, so that's a huge compliment.

I still need to listen more to this CD, but my initial reaction is very positive. I know very little about the band. Their website -- which is linked above -- has extensive bios of the band members. With the acquisition of a new house going on right now (see Lord Celery), I have to admit I just haven't had the time to read through everything on the site. I think Bob said that the band's based in York. And he also suggested that, in his opinion (which I value highly), this recent CD is their best so far.

So perhaps there will be more information to come on this group.

Have any Auditory Cortex readers ever seen Mostly Autumn playing live? If so, I'd love to hear about it.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Looking through the booklet in Mary Chapin Carpenter's "The Calling"...

I just received Mary Chapin Carpenter's new release "The Calling" in the mail (oops... forgot I'm in England...I should have written in the post) this morning. While contemplating what to go out and pick up for lunch, I did a little browsing through the CD's booklet.

One of the song titles caught my eye. "Houston". Although an Okie by birth, I spent more than half my life living in Houston. Carpenter sometimes mentions the city in her songs. I was curious what this particular song was about.

So I read through the lyrics. Interesting...it's a song about those displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, now living in Houston. I wonder what the song sounds like. Knowing Carpenter's music as well as I do, I'm sure it'll be stunning. I'll give it the first listen in the car on my commute home late this afternoon.

I've only heard one song on this CD so far, and that's because Bob Harris played "On With The Song" on his "Bob Harris Country" program on BBC Radio 2 last Thursday night. The lyrics are terrific. And I see that the song is dedicated to the Dixie Chicks. Good for them...and good for Carpenter for acknowledging them, too.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

My office-mate Gavin is the latest in a list of the many people I've known through my life who have had a huge influence on the music I listen to. (I plan to write a blog piece about all of them, one of these days.) Over the past months, he's introduced me to a lot of new music. We're lucky enough to be in a room of our own, in a remote corner of our office, where we can semi-quietly listen to music while we work. We do work, too, but there's no doubt that most of the time our brains work better with musical accompaniment.

Today, he brought two CD's to the office by a band called The Soundtrack of Our Lives.

How could I have possibly missed such a fascinating rock group for all these years? I'm especially surprised because they were nominated for a Grammy in 2003 for Best Alternative Album. (It's worth noting that they were beaten out by Coldplay's brilliant "A Rush of Blood to the Head".)

This is a Swedish band that's been around since 1995, having been formed from what's described as the "imploded" band which was called Union Carbide Productions.

TSOOL (as they are apparently also known) were heavily influenced by 60's psych-rock bands. But I think you can hear traces of the Who, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Buffalo Springfield, and even Ray Davies as well. It's fascinating stuff.

Here are the two CD's Gavin played for me today:

"Behind the Music" - from 2001

"Origin Vol 1" - from 2004

I already have ordered both of these...as well as a couple of their other releases (one an older album, and the other a collection of "B" sides and otherwise unused tracks). So more to come from me on these guys once I've had more time to explore their music.

Here's the official website for The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, in case you'd like to read about the band. I see that "Origins Vol 2" should be released some time in 2007.

Are any of you already fans? If so, how did you come across this intriguing band?


Saturday, March 03, 2007

James Hunter

Here's my latest music discovery....British R&B singer James Hunter. And here's a link to Hunter's MySpace music site.

Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson come to mind when I listen to Hunter's CD "People Gonna Talk". It's very retro-1960's. Wonderful listening!

I see that he has some previous releases, so I'll have to check them out as well.

Although Hunter has obviously been around for awhile, I hadn't heard of him until Bob Harris played his music on his Saturday night show on BBC Radio 2 in January. I ordered the CD through Amazon UK, and it just arrived this past week. And it's been in my car ever since.

And it's really great listening...so check it out if you're a fan of this type of smooth R&B.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Sometimes it takes me awhile to "get" it...

I don't think I would generally be considered dense. However, I have occasional bouts of being slow sometimes. Rarely, though, does it happen twice in relation to the same subject.

What am I talking about here?

Well, this morning, as I rode into Oxford on the Water Eaton Park 'N Ride bus, the song that my little Nano chose for me was Yes' famous "Your Move" + "All Good People" from their classic 1971 album "The Yes Album".

I'm not sure if I've ever actually heard that song through personal-stereo-type headphones before. And while I was recently in Singapore, I bought some really cool Sony phones which have some degree of noise-reduction as well. They have really exceptional sound.

So as I listened to the "Your Move" portion of the song, just as the organ comes in -- and just before the "All Good People" part -- I noticed some vocals in the left channel. I'd never heard them before. Previously, I'd only heard the background refrain of "Don't... surround yourself...with...your--self."

The voices I noticed in the left channel could clearly be heard to be singing "All we are say--ing....is give peace a chance." They sang it twice. And I was stunned to hear this for the very first time!

So before beginning this blog entry, I turned to my new favorite resource -- Wikipedia -- to see if there were any comments about my observation. There weren't in the Wikipedia article about "The Yes Album" (which is linked above), but I noticed there was a link to a page about the song itself within the article. And lo and behold, there it was -- the reference to the Lennon song! (By the way, you'll find a corresponding reference to Yes in the Wikipedia article about "Give Peace a Chance", too.)

It's amazing to me that I'd never noticed this before!

I'm reminded that when "The Yes Album" was first released and I heard "Your Move" + "I've Seen All Good People" for the first couple of times, I didn't notice that the "Your Move" words were referencing the game of chess. I think somebody mentioned it -- or a DJ made the comment on the radio -- I'm not sure. But I figured my excuse for that oversight was that I'm not a chess player. I'm sure that those who play the game spotted the meaning of the lyrics immediately.

So this is the second discovery about this one particular song!

Is my discovery this morning also news to anybody else out there, or am I the only Yes fan in the world to have remained oblivious to the fact that "Your Move" contained a peace message? Do let me know, OK?


PS. A postscript, since getting home. I told John about this, and he was unaware of it as well. You know, I believe he enjoyed the discovery of the Lennon refrain as much as I had earlier in the day!